Briggs v. Borough of Norristown, et al.

Township forcing landlords to evict tenants for requesting police assistance

Court/Assoc.: US District Court, Eastern District of Pennsylvania

Attorneys/Firms: Sandra Park & Lenora Lapidus (ACLU Women’s Rights Project); Sara Rose (ACLU-PA); T. Stephen Jenkins, Duncan Grant, Alexander Harris, & Joseph Sullivan (Pepper Hamilton LLP)

Lakisha Briggs (source:Jessica Kourkounis/ NY Times)

The American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Pennsylvania, and the law firm of Pepper Hamilton LLP filed a federal lawsuit on April 24, 2013, challenging an unconstitutional municipal ordinance that punishes innocent tenants and their landlords for requesting police assistance. The challenge was filed on behalf of a domestic violence victim who faced eviction from her home after requesting police protection from an abusive ex-boyfriend.

The Norristown ordinance penalizes landlords and encourages them to evict their tenants when the police are called to a property three times in four months for "disorderly behavior," including responding to incidents of domestic violence. Lakisha Briggs was threatened with eviction under this policy after she called the police for protection from her abusive ex-boyfriend. Briggs became reluctant to call the police for future incidents, including one in which her ex-boyfriend attacked her with a brick. When neighbors called the police for a final attack that resulted in Briggs being airlifted to the hospital, the city threatened her with forcible removal from her home.

In August 2014, Norristown voted to repeal the ordinance and agreed to pay $495,000 in attorneys' fees and damages to Briggs to settle the case.

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